Negotiations between Chicago City Hall and the city's powerful teacher's union failed to reach a deal over the weekend, leaving Chicago's 300K students unable to attend school for the fourth day, as the third-largest school district in the US teeters on the verge of all-out collapse.
The Chicago Teacher's Union voted Tuesday night only to teacher remote classes as the membership demands that the city take the steps it says are necessary to ensure a "safe" environment, even as evidence suggests schools aren't a major locus of community spread, and that the disruptions children face to their education is doing far more permanent harm to the young, who are at much lower risk from infection.
A group of parents have sued the TU in response to the decision, demanding that teacher's return to the city's schools to educate children in person.
To be sure, the ongoing omicron-driven wave has created so many absences among teachers and students in districts across the country, allowing dysfunction to reign, as teacher's are effectively paralyzed, unwilling to teach too much with so many students restricted to remote only.
The parents say they’ve been harmed by the situation “because their children are being denied schooling and they have had to secure child care for their children.”
CTU members are refusing to return to the classroom unless the number of cases subsided or the city agreed to a list of demands, including forcing students to test negative for COVID before being allowed back in school.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Martinez have said the vote amounted to an illegal work stoppage and have urged teachers to return to schools, arguing they are already safe places amid the pandemic. In response, the TU has insisted that it's not "on strike", but is merely taking a stand to protect its members safety.
Chicago Public Schools confirmed that schools would be closed Monday late Sunday evening, stating in a tweet that "we remain committed to reaching an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union as soon as possible."
UPDATE: Classes are currently canceled for all CPS students on Monday, January 10, but we remain committed to reaching an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union as soon as possible. Please review this letter for more information on our district’s plans. pic.twitter.com/S5zzu06CnF— CPS - Chicago Public Schools (@ChiPubSchools) January 10, 2022
Interestingly, the Chicago Public Schools confirmed once again that a "small number" of schools are planning to offer in-person activities for students on Monday, but that parents shouldn't try to send kids to school unless they hear from an administrator.
Over the weekend, officials from the CTU released a new proposal to the Chicago Teachers Union on Saturday laying out their bargaining position.
The proposal calls for a return to work for union members on Jan. 10, with students learning remotely between Jan. 12-17 until in-person learning resumes on Jan. 18.
Under the proposal, CPS would provide KN95 masks for all staff and students, which would be in addition to a previous agreement made in February 2021 that doled out medical-grade masks and other face-covering equipment to students and staff.
The proposal also establishes firm criteria for shutting a school down for in-person learning, which has reportedly been a major sticking point for Mayor Lori LIghtfoot.
Lightfoot in turn blasted the CTU for the "illegal work stoppage," accusing them of putting the narrow interests of its members above their duty to educate children.